Lymphoma Treatment And Hair Loss
Hair loss is a side effect of some chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments. Less commonly, it can be a side effect of antibody therapy.
Lymphoma treatment works on cells that divide rapidly, which includes lymphoma cells and hair cells this is why treatment can cause changes to your hair.
Not everyone who has treatment for lymphoma experiences changes to their hair. Whether youre affected or not depends on lots of factors, including: your treatment , your age, and your overall health, including any other conditions you might have.
Effects on your hair are usually short-term and can include:
- slight thinning
- changes in colour, which could include a streak or band of white hair
- changes in texture, such as hair being thinner, coarser or more curly than before treatment.
Mostly, hair eventually goes back to how it was before treatment for lymphoma.
Treating And Coping With Hair Loss In Lymphoma
Hair loss from lymphoma can be reversed. If you successfully treat the lymphoma, you should experience regrowth relatively quickly. In a small number of people, though, the hair does not come back or remains thin over the long term.
You have many options for treating and coping with hair loss associated with lymphoma. If youre not sure what you should be doing to manage or deal with hair loss, talk to your oncologist. A health care provider can help you come up with a plan to work through it and help preserve your emotional well-being.
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Tips For Hair Loss Or Thinning
- Use gentle hair products such as baby shampoos.
- Don’t use perms or hair colours on thinning hair colours may not take well and perms can damage the hair.
- Use a soft baby brush and comb thinning hair gently.
- Avoid using hair dryers, curling tongs, hair straighteners and curlers on thinning hair and pat your hair dry after washing.
- If your scalp flakes or itches this means it is dry use oil or moisturiser, not dandruff shampoo.
- Protect your scalp by covering your head in the sun.
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Jim’s Hair Fell Out A Couple Of Weeks After Starting Treatment He Used A Sticky Roller To Pick
Okay. You havent really talked about hair loss. Youve obviously lost your hair at some stage.How do you feel about losing your hair?
Many people cut their hair short or shaved it off before it fell out some said this gave them a sense of control. Several had a hairdresser friend or relative who did this for them. Kerry shaved hers off because she didnt want to watch it fall out. Doing this didnt necessarily avoid the upset though Frances had been proud of her hair, which had been long, thick and shiny with grey streaks, and cried for a day. Neils hairdresser had a bit of fun by shaving his hair into a Mohican style and photographing it before removing the rest of it. Dianne shaved off a few tufts that were left after the rest of her hair came out.
Preparing For Changes To Your Hair
Many people say that the possibility of losing their hair is one of their biggest worries about having treatment. Understandably, the thought of it can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety.
Hair loss can be an important part of self-identify, so unwanted changes to it can significantly affect self-esteem and confidence. Its a visible side effect of treatment, and can make it obvious to other people that youre having treatment, including those you might not have chosen to tell. This loss of control and privacy can be very challenging to cope with.
Prepare yourself mentally keep in mind that youll come across people you know who dont recognise you anymore. I lost the hair on my head, as well as my eyelashes and eyebrows, which made me look very different. I found that tough to cope with, but I did get used to it after about a month, and my hair grew back very quickly. People did look but I just assumed that they were good-natured people and probably guessed that I was having chemotherapy and hoped that I was recovering OK.
Speak to your medical team for advice specific to your situation if your hair is likely to be affected, you might want to ask where from and how quickly you could expect it to grow back. Getting an idea of what to expect can help you to prepare for changes to your hair and give you time to consider what approach you might like to take.
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When To Contact Your Doctor Or Hospital
As a general rule, while you are having treatment you will need to contact your doctor or hospital immediately if you have any of the following:
- a temperature of 38oC or over and/or an episode of uncontrolled shivering
- bleeding or bruising, for example blood in your urine, faeces, sputum, bleeding gums or a persistent nose bleed
- nausea or vomiting that prevents you from eating or drinking or taking your normal medications
- severe diarrhoea, stomach cramps or constipation
- coughing or shortness of breath
- a new rash, reddening of the skin, itching
- a persistent headache
- a new pain or soreness anywhere
- if you cut or otherwise injure yourself
- if you notice pain, swelling, redness or pus anywhere on your body.
Cosmetics And Camouflage Options
Cosmetic or camouflage options help to hide hair loss using make-up, sprays, lotions or powders.
Cancer Research UK has skin care and make up tips during cancer treatment, including video tutorials, on their website.
The charity Look Good, Feel Better also offers free workshops across the country to help men, women and young adults with visible effects of cancer treatment.
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Treatment Factors That Impact Hair Loss
The when and hows of chemotherapy-related hair loss depend on a number of factors. The medications you receive, the combinations of these drugs, how much you get and the timing of them will have an impact.
Certain drugs are more likely to cause alopecia than others. In fact, some chemotherapy does not cause hair loss at all. Medications that are commonly used in the treatment of leukemia and lymphoma that frequently cause hair loss include:
Intermittent infusions of higher doses of medications over a few hours or longer are more likely to cause hair loss whereas lower dose, continuous infusions are less likely.
Ask your practitioner or healthcare provider about the specifics of your treatment regimen, and how they predict it will influence your hair loss.
Radiotherapy And Hair Loss
Like in chemotherapy, cells with a rapid turnover rate, such as hair follicles, are more susceptible to the toxic effects of radiation therapy. As a result, alopecia is also common in people who receive radiotherapy to their head, such as those with certain types of lymphoma.
If the entire brain is being treated with radiotherapy, total hair loss will result. However, if just a targeted area of the brain is being treated, alopecia will only occur in a patch that is relative to the treatment field.
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Ways To Manage Hair Loss
Talk with your health care team about ways to manage before and after hair loss:
- Treat your hair gently. You may want to use a hairbrush with soft bristles or a wide-tooth comb. Do not use hair dryers, irons, or products such as gels or clips that may hurt your scalp. Wash your hair with a mild shampoo. Wash it less often and be very gentle. Pat it dry with a soft towel.
- You have choices. Some people choose to cut their hair short to make it easier to deal with when it starts to fall out. Others choose to shave their head. If you choose to shave your head, use an electric shaver so you wont cut yourself. If you plan to buy a wig, get one while you still have hair so you can match it to the color of your hair. If you find wigs to be itchy and hot, try wearing a comfortable scarf or turban.
- Protect and care for your scalp. Use sunscreen or wear a hat when you are outside. Choose a comfortable scarf or hat that you enjoy and that keeps your head warm. If your scalp itches or feels tender, using lotions and conditioners can help it feel better.
- Talk about your feelings. Many people feel angry, depressed, or embarrassed about hair loss. It can help to share these feelings with someone who understands. Some people find it helpful to talk with other people who have lost their hair during cancer treatment. Talking openly and honestly with your children and close family members can also help you all. Tell them that you expect to lose your hair during treatment.
Symptoms Caused By High Numbers Of Leukemia Cells
The cancer cells in AML are bigger than normal white blood cells and have more trouble going through tiny blood vessels. If the blast count gets very high, these cells can clog up blood vessels and make it hard for normal red blood cells to get to tissues. This is called leukostasis. Leukostasis is rare, but it is a medical emergency that needs to be treated right away. Some of the symptoms are like those seen with a stroke, and include:
- Weakness in one side of the body
When blood vessels in the lungs are affected, people can have shortness of breath. Blood vessels in the eye can be affected as well, leading to blurry vision or even loss of vision.
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Ways To Care For Your Hair When It Grows Back
- Be gentle. When your hair starts to grow back, you will want to be gentle with it. Avoid too much brushing, curling, and blow-drying. You may not want to wash your hair as frequently.
- After chemotherapy. Hair often grows back in 2 to 3 months after treatment has ended. Your hair will be very fine when it starts to grow back. Sometimes your new hair can be curlier or straighteror even a different color. In time, it may go back to how it was before treatment.
- After radiation therapy. Hair often grows back in 3 to 6 months after treatment has ended. If you received a very high dose of radiation your hair may grow back thinner or not at all on the part of your body that received radiation.
Talking With Your Health Care Team About Hair Loss
Prepare for your visit by making a list of questions to ask. Consider adding these questions to your list:
- Is treatment likely to cause my hair to fall out?
- How should I protect and care for my head? Are there products that you recommend? Ones I should avoid?
- Where can I get a wig or hairpiece?
- What support groups could I meet with that might help?
- When will my hair grow back?
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When I Saw It Coming Out In Clumps And Strands In The Shower I Was Devastated
I lost my hair during my battle with Hodgkin lymphoma. I didnt just lose it once though. Because I relapsed, I lost it twice.
Ive always had long thick hair, so when I saw it coming out in clumps and strands in the shower, I was devastated. Not only was I losing my hair but my eyebrows and eyelashes as well.
Questions To Ask The Doctor
- What treatment do you think is best for me?
- Whats the goal of this treatment? Do you think it could cure the leukemia?
- What side effects could I have from treatment?
- What can I do about side effects that I might have?
- Is there a clinical trial that might be right for me?
- What about special vitamins or diets that friends tell me about? How will I know if they are safe?
- How soon do I need to start treatment?
- What should I do to be ready for treatment?
- Is there anything I can do to help the treatment work better?
- Should we think about a stem cell transplant? If so, when?
- How long do you think I will live?
- What will we do if the treatment doesnt work or if the leukemia comes back?
- Whats the next step?
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Help With The Cost Of Wigs
You might be eligible to receive a synthetic wig free of charge.
If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, synthetic wigs are available free of charge.
If you live in England, synthetic wigs are available for free on the NHS if you meet certain eligibility criteria. These include:
- being on a low income
- receiving certain financial support.
You can find out more about wigs and help with the costs on the NHS website. If you dont meet the criteria for a free wig, you might still be able to get a subsidised wig from your hospital. Ask your clinical nurse specialist or another member of your medical team for details.
If you buy a wig privately, you dont need to pay value added tax . This applies to anyone who has lost their hair because of cancer. Ask the company for a VAT exemption form when you buy the wig you cant claim it back at a later date.
You can find out more about wigs, including getting one through your health service or the NHS, on Cancer Research UKs website.
For children and young people up to the age of 24, Little Princess Trust provides real hair wigs to those who have lost their hair due to cancer treatment or other conditions.
What Will Happen After Treatment
Treatment for AML can last for many months. Even after treatment ends, you will need many follow-up exams likely every few months for several years. Be sure to go to all of these follow-up visits. Your doctors will ask about symptoms, do physical exams, and order blood tests and maybe other tests to see if your leukemia has come back.
Having AML and dealing with treatment can be hard, but it can also be a time to look at your life in new ways. You may be thinking about how to improve your health. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 or talk to your doctor to find out what you can do to feel better.
You cant change the fact that you have AML. What you can change is how you live the rest of your life making healthy choices and feeling as good as you can.
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Chemotherapy And Hair Loss
Chemotherapy is the most common type of treatment for blood and marrow cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. However, these powerful cancer-killing medications are not able to tell the difference between cancer cells and your bodys healthy cells.
They attack any rapidly dividing cells in your body and unfortunately, this includes your hair follicles. The result? Hair loss that can range from a little thinning on the scalp to total body baldness.
How Is Lymphoma Diagnosed
If your healthcare provider suspects that you might have lymphoma based on your symptoms, history, and a physical exam, theyll likely order certain blood tests and imaging studies to look for signs of cancer. A lymph node biopsy is the gold standard for diagnosis and can confirm whether cancer cells are present.
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Before Treatment Begins / Before Hair Loss
- Discuss side effects with the care team. Plan for side effects, including hair loss, by talking with the care team. Hair loss is not always predictable, but the care team can help families understand whether hair loss is likely with a particular treatment.
- Prepare ahead of time. Hair loss can be sudden or gradual. It can be surprising and scary when it happens, even if you expect it. Hair may fall out in the shower or you may notice hair on the pillow or in your brush. A child life specialist can help families prepare children using age-friendly information.
- Make a plan for when hair falls out. Some patients cut their hair short or shave their head before hair falls out. Other patients may wait and see what happens. This might be a time to try a crazy haircut or hair color. Be sure to check with the care team before using any dye or chemical product. Also, keep in mind that hair dye can damage hair and contribute to hair loss.
- Consider head cover options. It can help to think about hats, head scarves, and wigs before hair falls out. Shopping for head coverings can give patients some sense of control and personal choice. Encourage patients to think about their personal style and comfort. A variety of options are available, and they can be a way to express personality, communicate gender, and promote social interaction. Hats and wigs are available in sizes and styles specially designed for children.
Choosing a Wig or Hat
How Quickly Will My Hair Grow Back
Hair loss after treatment is rarely permanent, but it might take a while to grow back.
Part of your hair is made of a protein called keratin. On average, hair grows at a rate of around 1cm or half an inch a month. However, after lymphoma treatment, you might have a temporary lack of keratin, which can weaken your hair and slow its growth. Once keratin levels return to normal, stronger hair can start to grow. How quickly your hair grows back depends on several factors, including the treatment type youve had, your individual response to it and your general health.
- After chemotherapy, hair follicles recover within a few weeks but it takes a bit longer before you can actually see new hair. Most people notice their hair growing back within 3 to 6 months of finishing chemotherapy, although it can take more or less time. Hair often grows back finer, straighter or curlier, or a different colour from how it used to be. Usually, in time, it returns to how it was before treatment. The change is permanent for a small number of people.
- After radiotherapy, it usually takes around 2 to 6 months for hair to grow back but it can take longer. Your hair might be curlier or a different texture than it was before treatment. In some cases, the hair loss can be permanent.
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